It had been 43 years since Castro had taken control of the Island of Cuba, my homeland. I had not seen any of my close relatives since 1959 and a reunion was planned for the winter of 2003 in Miami, Florida.
My husband and I were living upstate New York and decided to drive down to Miami for the reunion; however, we could not find a dog-friendly place to stay. We had given up on going when a New York friend of ours called and said, “We are in Zephyrhills, Florida; it is such a beautiful place, you have to come to see us and they are dog friendly.” So we drove down to Zephyrhills and needless to say, we agreed with her, this place felt like home! Since Miami was just a few hours away, we thought this was a good way to have a winter vacation and at the same time to reconnect with my Cuban family. The family reunion was wonderful; I met two generations of relatives that I did not think I would ever meet. I felt this was a gift from God. Thus we began the first phase of our spiritual journey.
The following year, upon our return to Zephyrhills, we discovered there were many of our Catholic New York friends living in the same park and one of them invited us to go visit Saint Leo Abbey. I felt something very special there and the attraction continued on for the next 9 years... every time we came down to Zephyrhills for the winter, we would visit the Abbey.
My husband had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before our first trip to Zephyrhills and was undergoing different treatments to slow the growth of the cancer; however, in 2010 the cancer was winning the battle. During these years of struggling to live, my husband had become angry with God and began denying life after death, hated religion and was out to prove that God just did not care. As his illness got worsened, his anger increased. Then a worse tragedy happened. One of his sons from a previous marriage died of brain cancer. He passed away within 30 days after the doctors found the brain tumor. In my attempt to console my husband, I said, “You will see him again.” He became enraged and shouted, “NO!”
I must add here, that during these years of complete darkness, there was a small part of him that wanted to believe. In our winter trips, he would ask to go to the Abbey and I remember there was a certain child-like softness in his eyes while he was at Saint Leo Abbey. For a few moments he would find peace.
In the winter of 2011, there was no more hope, my husband’s critical condition worsened, his body was shutting down. On the first trip to the ER, his heart stopped and God brought him back. The second time in the Intensive care unit during dialysis, he began to die again and God brought him back, once again. The next day the surgeon came into his hospital room and said to me, “God was with us last night; I thought I had lost him but he came back!” Then a third time again, during dialysis, my husband began to have a heart attack and almost died. Apparently, the blood clots leaving his body had plugged up the dialysis machine and the machine stopped working. During this unexpected interruption of this critical procedure, God saved him again.
I finally said to the team of doctors at the VA hospital, “Please stop all treatments and send him to Hospice.” We were then referred to the Dade City hospice. Praise be to God, it was at the hospice where God finally had my husband all to Himself. Miracles began to happen, too numerous to describe. He had been unconscious for a few days and one day my two closest friends, my sister and I were in his room and my husband without opening his eyes said with all clarity, “JESUS IS HERE RIGHT NOW IN THE ROOM...” I am convinced that Jesus had come down to take him to his heavenly resting place. He had saved his soul! A few days later he died a very peaceful death.
That was the end of his spiritual journey and the beginning of mine.
During those last few weeks of my husband's life, I met a part of God I had never known before. My life had changed.
After his death I went to live with my family in Los Angeles, California. I met a lady at church who was a Benedictine oblate and I asked her more about the oblates. She gave me the Rule of Saint Benedict to read and invited me to visit her Benedictine monastery where I attend a few meetings. I was drawn to Benedictine spirituality because I found it to be a practical way of finding God. However, shortly after my interest in advancing with the oblates, I learned that the monastery that my friend had brought me to was permanently closing its doors.
At this time I had no plan to ever leave California, but one day all of the suddenly I had this strong urge to call my two New York friends who had moved to Zephyrhills and after a short conversation on the phone I started to plan my move to Zephyrhills.
Since I had Zephyrhills in my mind again, I remembered Saint Leo Abbey and decided to go to their website and LO AND BEHOLD! I did not even know that Saint Leo Abbey was a Benedictine monastery! I asked myself, “Is there a connection here?” Well, I had no time to speculate, I had to get ready for the move and I kept praying: THY WILL NOT MINE...if God wants me to stay in Los Angeles, I will stay, if He wants me to go, he would make it happen.
He made it happen and I relocated to Florida. Everything went so smoothly that before I knew it I was here in Florida. I decided to give myself time and not rush into things and kept praying; THY WILL, NOT MINE...One day, I felt that same strong urge to go the Saint Leo Abbey's website and without much hesitation clicked on the Oblate Program and requested a visit.
On my first visit to the Abbey I knew I belonged there and immediately I applied to enter the oblate program. My decision to join the Saint Leo Abbey Oblate program has given me a new meaning to my life. I feel very strongly that I am on the right spiritual path.
Looking back, I see God's hands guiding me from the very beginning of this journey. From the time my husband and I could not find a dog-friendly hotel in Miami to our casual trips to the Abbey, from my husband's conversion during his last hours to my oblate Benedictine friend in California and then my final destination back to Saint Leo Abbey to seek God again, here, where He has guided me, I have found HIM.
A true story of God's Divine Mercy